(Photo credit: MEE/Lubna Masarwa)
Israel has begun implementing security preparations for Thursday’s highly controversial flag march through the Old City of Jerusalem, and will deploy more than 3,200 police officers and security forces across the holy city in order to maintain ‘public order and safety.’
Israeli police have announced their readiness to deal with “incidents of friction and violence” throughout the controversial march, which is set for 18 May.
As a result, over 3,200 officers, security forces, and volunteers will be deployed throughout occupied Jerusalem on Thursday to “maintain public order, the safety of people and property, and to direct traffic,” according to an Israeli police statement.
This will include undercover cops who will “act decisively against any attempt to violate the order and the law.”
Israeli authorities also emphasized the importance of maintaining “a normal course of life as much as possible, and to allow both the participants of the march and the rest of the pedestrian public and worshipers of all religions to reach their destination.”
This comes in the aftermath of a five-day battle between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) resistance movement, which ended on 13 May following the implementation of a Qatari, Egyptian, and UN-mediated ceasefire.
While the PIJ had initially announced that one of the terms of the ceasefire was a change in the course of the flag march – which passes through the Muslim quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City near Al-Aqsa Mosque – the alleged truce document included no such term.
The Palestinian resistance has issued serious warnings against Israel and warned that any provocation during the flag march will be met with force. Israel responded to these warnings with threats of further violence.
“I really hope they don’t fire rockets because of the parade,” the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, said. In May 2021, rockets were fired at Jerusalem during the start of the march, prompting authorities to postpone it until June. Following the rocket-fire, Israel attacked the Gaza Strip, leading to the infamous Sword of Jerusalem battle.
Israeli police also said that the march will not pass through the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound despite “false publications and attempts at incitement.”
Nonetheless, it is still expected to pose a threat to stability. Acts of violence against Palestinians by settlers and accompanying Israeli troops are highly common throughout the annual march. During last year’s flag march, over 160 Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops and settlers.
Additionally, Palestinian media outlets have claimed that this year, it will be the largest flag march “in the history of the occupation,” with thousands of settlers said to be participating.